Government climate agencies may be tampering with temperature data to make global warming seem more extreme than it’s actually been. At least, that’s what a panel of veteran scientists has been assembled to investigate.
“Many people have found the extent of adjustments to the data surprising,” Terence Kealey, former vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said in a statement released by The Global Warming Policy Foundation.
“While we believe that the 20th century warming is real, we are concerned by claims that the actual trend is different from – or less certain than – has been suggested,” said Kealey, who has been appointed chairman of the foundation’s investigative task force. “We hope to perform a valuable public service by getting everything out into the open.”
Climate agencies, like NOAA and NASA, routinely make adjustments to raw temperature readings to get rid of biases in the data. Scientists say that making adjustments is important to making the temperature record more accurate, but some question the size of the adjustments made by climate agencies.
Scientists skeptical of man-made global warming tend to argue that such “adjustments” pretty much always increase the warming trend in the data to reinforce the theory that human activities are the main cause of warming in the past few decades.
NOAA, for example, has been criticized for lowering past temperatures and raising more recent ones — both of which create a more prominent warming trend. Recently, Dr. Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, found that NOAA had adjusted U.S. Corn Belt summer temperatures to create a warming trend that didn’t exist in the data last year.
“I was updating a U.S. Corn Belt summer temperature and precipitation dataset from [NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center] website, and all of a sudden the no-warming-trend-since-1900 turned into a significant warming trend,” Spencer wrote on his blog in March.
Spencer noted that NCDC’s “adjustments” made the warming trend for the region increase from just 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per century to 0.6 degrees per century.
Science blogger Steven Goddard (a pseudonym) has long documented temperature adjustments made by NCDC. Goddard told The Daily Caller News Foundation in February that “NCDC pulls every trick in the book to turn the US cooling trend into warming.”
Kealey’s task force is accepting evidence from skeptics and non-skeptics alike to get to the bottom of the data controversy. Kealey says the task force will “help the public understand the challenges in assembling climate data sets, the influence of adjustments and modifications to the data, and whether they are justifiable or not.”
Evidence of data tampering put together by Goddard and others have even sparked interest from Republican lawmakers in both chambers of Congress. Republicans have vowed to hold hearings on climate science, including how government agencies make adjustments to temperature data.
@caerbannog666 expect there to be congressional hearings into NASA altering weather station data to falsely indicate warming￼ & sea rise
— Dana Rohrabacher (@DanaRohrabacher) February 20, 2015
The NOAA justifies these data adjustments for a number of reasons. The agency gathers data from thousands of weather stations, ocean buoys, ships and other sources to put together comprehensive global temperature trends. It’s not a perfect system, and individual weather stations and such can have their temperatures influenced by being in a city or airport — this tends to make the region seem warmer because of the “urban heat island” effect.
Lots of other adjustments have been made to take into account the different technologies and techniques for measuring temperatures. For example, the biggest temperature adjustment made by NOAA is to take into account the changes in the time of day temperatures have been observed over the decades.
For whatever reason, more thermometer readings are taken in the morning now, as opposed to the afternoon — this created a cooling bias in the data that needed to be corrected, according to NOAA. The agency compensates by cooling past data relative to the present.
Goddard says the adjustments serve to create a major warming trend that just isn’t present in the raw data.
“The raw data shows cooling since the 1920s,” Goddard said. “NCDC does a hockey stick of adjustments to reverse the trend. This includes cooling the past for ‘time of observation bias,’ infilling missing rural data with urban temperatures, and doing almost nothing to compensate for urban heat island effects.”
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